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Enemies of Progress Part 2: Criticism of the Becoming and Acceptance of the Existing

The Elbphilharmonie (Concert Hall in the City of Hamburg) was much more expensive than planned, involving hundreds of millions of euros of taxpayers' money. For years, the regional and national press was full of reports about the planning and construction scandal, including a committee of inquiry. The concert hall has been finished in January 2017 and since then there has been peace. The BER airport has also abruptly disappeared from the media since its completion. You don't have to be a clairvoyant to predict that the same will happen with Stuttgart21. It's clear that at some point it has to be possible to put an issue to bed, and the completion of construction projects is an official deadline for outrage.

Simply bring it to an end; then there is peace

Nevertheless, I find it remarkable how quickly 'criticism of what is becoming' turns into 'acceptance of what exists'. For one thing, those responsible can draw the questionable conclusion that projects simply have to be brought to an end as quickly as possible - as is currently the case with Nordstream 2 - so that the issue disappears from public discussion. On the other hand, it bothers me that, in general, what is becoming is virtually discriminated against compared to what already exists.

Speaking of Nordstream 2, this is where it becomes particularly clear: I don't want to take up the arguments for and against construction here, and I certainly don't want to side with the proponents or the opponents. There is only one thing that strikes me: The project bears the number '2' in its name because there is another pipeline - namely 'Nordstream 1' - which has been transporting gas from Russia to the German town of Lubmin for years. This pipeline is also in Russia's economic and geopolitical interest and bypasses Ukraine, etc. So, when it comes to sanctions, we could just as well discuss turning off the tap of Nordstream 1 instead of talking about the completion of the new pipeline. But it's already there, so there's nothing we can do about it. The existing may remain.

If cars were invented today, the internal combustion engine would not stand a chance.

Apparently, it is deep in us to criticize major changes and defend what already exists - even in the case of new technologies: Electromobility in the automotive sector has been battling the same concerns for over 10 years: too little range, insufficient charging infrastructure, and even the safety of batteries in accidents has been questioned, with frequent reports of a burning battery in a Tesla. On the latter point, it seems to have been briefly forgotten that the tanks of cars with internal combustion engines are all the more flammable and hundreds of them burst into flames every day.

I would like to invite you to a short thought experiment on this topic: When the automobile was in its infancy, battery-powered vehicles already existed. For certain reasons, the internal combustion engine then prevailed and dominated the last 100 years of automotive history. Suppose we could travel back in time and discuss which technology should be used across the board - electricity or gasoline - what would be the result? Cars that have a tank of flammable liquid installed from a finite resource and for which thousands of filling stations must be built? Or cars with a battery that can be charged anywhere there is electricity, which moreover can be generated on the basis of renewable energies. I know that the discussion is truncated and oversimplified. But again: The existing is preferred.

Fair discussion about what exists and what is becoming

Discussions about what exists and what is becoming should be conducted fairly: Arguments like "it's always been this way" or "something is common" are not. The only relevant question is: Can what exists be improved because the future state offers more advantages than disadvantages compared to the status quo? Incidentally, this also applies to digitization. It is not an end in itself, but should make the world a better place. To do this, it must be allowed to question the existing. Conversely, not everything that is different is better just because an app is used.

About the author

Dr. Sebastian Tschentscher finds the best digital minds for your company with his executive search boutique "Digital Minds".

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